Reading While White

Exactly half a month ago, on September 15th, 2015, the blog Reading While White launched its first official post, titled, “Why a White Blog?”

I was floored.

In this starting salvo at white privilege, Allie Jane Bruce looks at the inherent blindness of white people to their own privilege, using herself as an example. Even as a feminist, race-conscious, anti-discriminatory white woman, she found her well-meaning attempts to empathize with a friend caused her to perpetuate racial micro-aggression: the dismissal of the experience of discrimination based on skin colour.

Allie’s post, starting with her own feminist outrage at a micro-aggression against women on the bus (I’ve had the exact. same. experience. ugh.) and leading into the sickening feeling of realizing one’s own unintentional racism, is sharp, striking, wonderful. It was a relief, if I may use that word, to find that another white woman had written so eloquently on that uncomfortable, world-wobbling discovery of one’s own guilt: of the knowledge that, as white, I am part of the problem; that, as white, a lot of the time I don’t even see the problem because of the same unjust privilege; that inasmuch as I am striving to be fully cognizant of my own privilege at all times, I am still and all too easily blinded by it; and that furthermore I have necessarily, through my ignorance, hurt people for whom I care very much and people whom I do not know but have nevertheless affected, and that I will inevitably hurt other people in the future because I do not understand their experiences or how my own have been normalized at their expense.

The subsequent posts – by the group of librarians who together founded the blog – have been hard-hitting, the sort of clean cuts a scalpel slicing through festering skin in an attempt to help the body rid itself of rot might make. The discussions in the comments below the posts are lively, well worth reading, and practical.

I hope the blog goes viral.

I hope it achieves its objectives of being an ally group which helps white people in sorting out the ways in which they/we are racist (i.e. grasp the enormity of white privilege and act to counter it) and strive to be better allies of People of Colour.

Many thanks to Debbie Reese, a fierce advocate for diversity and the representation and rights of First Nations Peoples, who herself runs a thought-provoking and immensely useful blog on the representation of American Indians in CL and YA. Debbie drew my attention to Reading While White; her blog is one of the resources listed on that site, and itself deserves attention and praise.

October’s theme at The Book Wars is retellings, and that is what, in a sense, RWW is doing: retelling our cultural and social narratives so that they reflect the truth of privilege and discrimination, and encouraging white people as they/we reorder, reexamine, and reshape our internal(ized) narratives to tell the truth, and work for justice. It is not the duty of POC to educate white people; it is the responsibility of white people to grow up and do that them/ourselves.

If you are white, do yourself a favour and read RWW and Debbie’s posts. I can guarantee that you will find yourself nodding and murmuring hmm in agreement or consideration as some new aspect to something you’d pondered, or perhaps never thought of, before.

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